New York Methodist Hospital now offers a wide range of treatment options for patients suffering from tinnitus — a common problem that affects approximately one in five people. “Tinnitus is a sensation of sound in the ear that shouldn’t be there,” explained Ramez Habib, MD, an otolaryngologist at New York Methodist. “People may hear ringing, humming, buzzing, pulsations, or other sounds.”
Not a condition itself, tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying condition — that in most cases is hearing loss due to noise exposure or aging. Certain medications such as aspirin, an ear injury or trauma resulting in a head injury can also cause tinnitus. The most common and successful treatment for patients with hearing loss is to use a hearing aid. “If a patient addresses the hearing loss by getting a hearing aid, the tinnitus will usually improve,” said Dr. Habib.
For patients whose tinnitus is not due to hearing loss or who do not want a hearing aid, New York Methodist offers other treatment options that include the use of anti-seizure medication, which has been successful in eliminating symptoms, and a tinnitus inhibitor, a hand-held device that delivers ultrasonic vibration (which interrupts the tinnitus sounds) when held to the patient’s neck. According to Dr. Habib, many patients report instant relief after just a 30-second application of the device.
“Patients can ‘trick’ the brain to ignore the tinnitus sounds by creating background noise (with radio static or a white noise machine) because the brain will preferentially pay attention to that sound, and not the humming or buzzing,” said Dr. Habib. Further, a small but significant number of patients are helped by taking certain over-the-counter vitamins. In cases where symptoms may be severe, very mild sedatives may be prescribed.
All patients experiencing tinnitus should be evaluated by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) to determine which treatment option is best for them.
For a referral to an otolaryngologist at NYM, 506 Sixth Street between Seventh & Eighth avenues, call 718 499-CARE.